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Galleon scores court victory, delays trial until October

Friday, February 19, 2010
Opalesque Industry Update - The defense of Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam, who is accused of using secret tips from hedge fund executives, corporate officials and other insiders to earn millions of dollars in illegal stock trades, won a significant victory recently after a judge overseeing the criminal case against him rejected the request of prosecutors to start the litigation in June or July. U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell in New York, scheduled the trial for Oct. 25, various media reports said.

Prosecution lawyers Reed Brodsky and Jonathan Streeter from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan were not happy with Holwell’s decision. The two have been pushing for an earlier trail and argued delaying the criminal proceedings would give Rajaratnam a tactical advantage, said WSJ.com.

Separate civil trial pending before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
A separate civil-fraud trial is currently set for August.

Businessweek.com quoted John Dowd, one of Rajaratnam’s lawyers, as telling Judge Holwell during the hearing: “This is clearly the most important case. The other case is, frankly, a nuisance,” referring to the civil case.

The lawyers for Rajaratnam and for co-accused defendant, New Castle Funds’ consultant Danielle Chiesi, said they would ask U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff to postpone the civil trial, Bizjournals.com reported.

But Rakoff, the federal judge in Manhattan who is overseeing the civil case, has said the trial date was “firm” and he generally wants cases to be tried quickly, according to WSJ.com.

Recordings of a wiretap
The postponement of the criminal trial was the second significant victory for Rajaratnam’s defense team.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the order of federal judge Rakoff to Rajaratnam and Chiesi to surrender the recordings of a wiretap to the SEC. The reversal relieved the defendants from having to immediately turn over wiretap recordings in the civil case.

Rajaratnam and other defendants had received the recordings from the U.S. attorney's office as part of pre-trial discovery in the criminal case, according to a report by WSJ.com.

Guilty
The massive Galleon case involves charges against 22 individuals, 10 of whom have pleaded guilty, including four key individuals that put pressure on the defense panel. The case marked the first time wiretaps were used in an inside trading investigation. It involved trading shares in twelve companies, including Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Akamai Technologies Inc., Google Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Early this month, ex-Intel executive Rajiv Goel pleaded guilty to feeding confidential information to Rajaratnam about the computer-chip maker. He faces up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on May 28 but could receive far less time because he agreed to cooperate with the investigation as part of a plea deal.

Ex-hedge fund trader Mark Lenowitz, who formerly traded equity securities on behalf of Chelsey Capital in New York and was a partner at Q Capital Investment Partners LP in New Jersey, was sentenced to three years of probation this month after prosecutors said his cooperation indirectly led to the arrests in the controversial Galleon case.

David Slaine, former Galleon trader and wired cooperator, pleaded guilty regarding his involvement in case. He admitted to conspiracy and securities fraud charges.

Mark Kurkland, former senior managing director at hedge fund New Castle Partners also admitted guilt to securities fraud, and claimed to have made $900,000 through inside trades involving Rajaratnam.

However, others who were accused in the Galleon case refused to cooperate with authorities and refused to admit guilt. Zvi Goffer, who worked for a time at Galleon and is the founder of trading firm Incremental Capital, and six others entered not guilty pleas to the charges in a 10-count indictment at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan in Manhattan this month.

With the number of key players who have entered guilty pleas, legal experts have opined that pressure is now mounting against Rajaratnam and Chiesi.

Surprisingly, Chiesi remains confident she would not do time, claiming she has not done anything wrong and that the trial would vindicate her and Rajaratnam. She maintains hers and Rajaratnam’s innocence over the case.

Prosecutors said Rajaratnam could face up to 185 years imprisonment if proven guilty of all the 17 charges filed against him in Manhattan, including the two new securities fraud charges against him filed early this month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Klein told judge Holwell in January that Rajaratnam’s profit in the alleged insider trading may have topped $50m.

Rajaratnam is believed to have recently sold one of his New York apartments for $1.575m to pay his lawyers and defense expenses. – PD & FG –

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